Dave Matthews approached Fenton Williams during last winter’s DMB tour about making a video for the song Rooftop, from their current album release “Away From The World”. They discussed a couple of ideas, and soon afterwards met with Filament’s Creative Director, Aaron Farrington, to help flesh out their ideas. “I asked Dave what the chorus was about,” says Aaron. “He said it was about celebrity, about how it can flatten a person out, turn them into a caricature, and yet still crave that celebrity. So naturally I thought he should be institutionalized.”


The production schedule for this video was incredibly tight. Although the treatment and script were written months earlier, we only had a week between getting the green light on the project and shooting it. We had to scout locations, build two sets, and gather all the people and gear needed to complete the shoot. We found a warehouse in Ivy, Virginia, and began construction of a green screen wall that was 40 feet wide by 20 feet high. This was expedited by the talents of Hollywood scene painter Abe Costanza, and local artist Jason Roberson, with set direction from Filament’s Abel Okugawa. Our crew of carpenters and artists worked around the clock to create several key props and the two sets that we would use to film the majority of the video. The giant screen was a necessity—it freed Dave to romp around the set like a madman and allowed us to place him into our stylized cityscape. The custom-built props for this set included a section of roof and ledge that we could wheel in and out, a graffiti-worn door in a frame, and an absurd air pump with bellows. Later we would commission a ten-foot tall balloon version of Dave’s clean-cut alter-ego, to be inflated with the aforementioned pump. Performing with real-world props in the green screen environment provided Dave with a bridge to the CG world we would later create.


We then constructed a second set adjacent to the green screen, a dingy mental institution, complete with a black and white tiled floor. A retro Tee-Vee, ping pong table, and pill counter rounded out our set, and we built a house of cards for Dave to play with in the scene.

Our director, Aaron Farrington, our director of photography, Johnny St. Ours, and our visual effects supervisor, David Ariew, discussed the plan of attack. We needed to figure out how to best use the space in the time allotted, and we needed to visualize the geometry of the CG world that we were to create in post-production, where currently there was just a giant green wall. These were the major challenges that we tackled before Dave arrived, but we were confident that we had worked through all technical necessities, and that Johnny and Aaron would infuse heaps of style into the image.


On April 8th, Dave arrived on set and proceeded to blow us away with his energy and commitment to the process. During his maniacal dance scene at the end of our second day, we cranked the music louder and louder as Dave got fully immersed in his character and performance with full intensity. The crew started covering their ears, and the sound even drove some extras out the door, but the result was an awesome scene. After the first two days of shooting on set, Dave and a skeleton crew trekked around to a few locations in Charlottesville—namely a bathroom under The Jefferson Theater, a staircase in a parking garage, and the train tracks behind the set in Ivy. This let us fill out the remaining scenes in the treatment, and gave the video a couple of unique departures.








Once we wrapped shooting, our team was eager to edit the video and create the digital cityscape that Dave would inhabit. Before this could happen though, we had to shoot and edit all the video content that would go on tour with DMB for 2013, which took us until May 20th, at which point we were able to dedicate all our resources to post-production of Rooftop. Aaron Farrington and Abel Okugawa led the editing process, where the challenge was to create an entertaining flow that let up at certain moments and hit hard when the energy of the song called for it. Telling a fun story and moving with the music were the major goals at the forefront of our vision.


Filament’s David Ariew and David Sawchak created the visual effects, environments, and composites for the music video. We recreated all of the camera moves digitally so that the CG sets we created would match the original footage. We cleanly keyed all of the shots, extended set pieces, and artistically lit and placed the city-themed environments into the shots we selected for the final edit. We also created several crowds from live-action elements to place into scenes, and choreographed an elaborate scene where Dave falls from a building.


The Dave balloon prop was custom-ordered and arrived just a week before we were to present the full rough cut of the video. Our team took the ten-foot balloon out and filmed it inflating, and bobbing about in the air while attached to a pole. We tossed the balloon over the edge of a parking garage, so it would look like it was falling realistically, and our visual effects artists took these elements to composite into scenes with Dave. We finished the first round of post-production in late June, and after spending July working on a couple of country music festivals, finished making the last aesthetic changes in mid-August.


We hope you enjoy watching the Rooftop music video as much as we enjoyed creating it. We loved working with Dave and appreciated his trust in us making something unique and creative together. He gave us a lot of creative freedom as well as very helpful input in the process. We executed Aaron’s creative vision from start to finish in-house, and we hope to work on many more projects like this in the future. We would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this project.



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